We have a winner!

Here it is, at long last, the member vote for the five finalists for the 2008 Cthulhu Mythos Fiction Contest. Please read the stories before you vote - it's more fun that way, trust me!

Hearty congratulations to the finalists and heartfelt commiserations to the other entrants.

We have a winner!

Postby carnage_lee » Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:23 pm

Well, the votes are all in and counted - and the winner is One Thousand Names, congratulations to Sara Hughes and commiserations to our other finalists: Mi-Go Agent; The Remnant from the Deeps, S. Hemming: A Death Of Ages, David Howell; Miskatonic Moon and Mr. Handy; The End of It All. Special thanks also to the three authors whose entries weren't short-listed to the final vote: Victimizer; The Woodland, Ash; Hotaru and C. Watson; The Vacation of a Lifetime; you made the choice of finalists especially difficult.

In the words of (young) Mr. Grace.... "You've all done very well."

We will be opening up a forum to 'show-case' all the entries and I'm sure the authors would like to receive your comments in that new forum.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Ash » Wed Mar 04, 2009 1:45 am

Yes, definitely we should run this again.
I would embrace the chance to have another go at writing something more focussed in mythos if so.
It was great fun taking part and reading everyones entries.
Well done to all.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby welsh » Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:47 pm

Congrats on your victory!
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mi-Go Agent » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:08 pm

When might the "show-case" be up? Posting is forbidden where the stories are currently.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby carnage_lee » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:20 pm

working on that now Boss....
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby carnage_lee » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:22 pm

Have added the runner up stories - forum opened for posting by registered site members :)
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby sara » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:39 am

crikey, I'm chuffed to have won, a big thank you to everyone who voted, 13's always been my lucky number...... I really appreciated the chance to enter and get feedback on what I’d written plus it’s a great opportunity to read and comment on other people’s stories. Everyone has a different take on what makes a good Cthulhu Mythos story which is what makes competitions like this such good fun to participate in, so definitely it would be a good idea to run something like this again!

I thought all the finalists were of a really high quality and I wanted to add some comments of my own….

A Death of Ages – I thought this was a beautifully written story and genuinely horrific. I loved the dreamlike quality and surreal imagery it evoked. The downside for me was its lack of connection to the Cthulhu Mythos. I wouldn’t count it as a Cthulhu Mythos story myself, which I guess can be a pit fall for a competition like this as what is / isn’t a mythos story could always be open to debate. I really liked the ending and it got me thinking about the protagonist’s need, however futile, to keep recording what was happening to him.

The End of it All – I really enjoyed this one! I wasn’t doing too good initially, as I seemed to keep offending people and be given the short shrift, but I eventually managed to save the world and was most pleased with myself. I particularly liked the way the dialogue was written as it kept the action fast paced and taut, which complemented the theme of the story well.

The Remnant from the Deeps – This was another well crafted story with a wonderfully effective descriptive narrative. The dream sequences added a growing tension and supernatural depth to the story which I liked. This was a fantastic setting for Cthulhu Mythos fiction and I would have preferred a slightly more sensory aspect to the writing; using the sounds, smells and feel of working at sea to bring even more life to what the protagonist was experiencing. Though I’m ashamed to say I’ve never actually managed to finish Melville’s masterpiece myself, I thought the Moby Dick connection was wonderful.

Miskatonic Moon – I had a lot of fun reading this and I enjoyed the many and varied Lovecraftian references humorously incorporated into this story. It was very well written and overall well paced, though the ending was a little sudden for me and I would have liked more focus on the threat of the Old Ones coming through to build up more tension. I thought the lead characters, especially Professor Wheeler, were very well realised for a short story.

I've not had a chance to read the others yet, I'll try and have a sneaky peek at work tomorrow!
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mr. Handy » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:28 am

Congratulations, Sara! Even though I ended up voting for my own story (The End of It All), I really enjoyed yours, and in fact all of them. One of the things I liked about A Thousand Dead Names was the setting. I've always loved London, and your story made it come alive in a very extraordinary way. In a sense, London was a character in its own right. I've been there twice before, and I'm going again in November, but this story showed an aspect of London that tourists wouldn't normally see. Add in the supernatural/Mythosy aspect, and you've got pure gold.

Thank you for your compliments on my story, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've been writing interactive fiction since I was 4 and first discovered Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Granted, my early works weren't so good, but I've been getting a lot better over time. One of the major influences on my design of this story/game was the computer RPG Fallout. I was very limited in what I could accomplish by the 5,000 word limit, but I think I milked it for all it's worth. Adding in branching storylines meant that the actual story would be shorter in length in a single reading as well. Adding in RPG elements like stats, equipment, and dice would have made this story far too complex to fit within the word limit, so I kept it diceless while still making the dialogue as complex and interesting as I could. Another aspect of Fallout that I used was a logically consistent world, where everything that occurs happens for a reason, and the different characters' relationships and the motivations for their actions make sense.

Someone commented in another thread about how it was difficult to maintain a sense of rising tension given the format, and that is true. Like in Fallout, it's possible to go to the endgame almost right away if you make the right (or wrong?) choices, but it's also possible to traverse most of the sections of the story in a single reading and explore many (but not all) of the possiblities. To truly get the full story, you need to read it multiple times while trying out different choices - another great thing about Fallout. The branching tree made up of the different sections of the story has no loops - you can only go forward, never backward. This moves things along toward the inevitable conclusion, and every choice you make has consequences. Say (or imply) the wrong thing, and the person you're talking to may get offended and refuse to say anything further. Investigating one location may mean you cannot go back and check out another one later on, or that circumstances will be different if you go there later than if you had chosen to visit it first. There are also multiple ways to emerge victorious in the endgame, like in Fallout. You can triumph through conversation or through fighting, but in both cases it you'll have to be clever about it (Fallout also has ways to win through stealth and multiple solutions for every aspect of the game, but I was bumping up against the word limit and didn't have room for additional paths).

I noticed that you mentioned in one of your comments for another story that you wanted more sensory descriptions, and that was one of the things I tried to include in mine. Usually authors rely on mainly visual description, along with some aural description, but we do have more senses than that. I added smells and even tastes (such as the bitter coffee you drink at the police station at the start of the story) where appropriate. In a Mythos story it's even more important to use these senses, especially when the danger cannot be seen or heard.

I don't have time tonight to comment on the other stories, and I haven't even had a chance to read the runners up yet, but hopefully I'll be able to before too long.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Victimizer » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:59 pm

Also congratulations from me Sara, your victory is well deserved.

To answer a question that carnage_lee posted at the end of the voting thread, I would enjoy seeing this run again - the more contests I can write for, the more I will be animated to write.
However, to reiterate my criticism from the previous thread, I do think that the nature of the stories which are allowed to be submitted needs to either be defined a bit better, or it should be clearer what sort of stories the judges count as belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos. Looking at the runner ups (including my own) there does not appear to be a story which would've stood much of a chance against Sara's winning story, but it would perhaps not be a good thing if the next contest also foregoes bona fide Cthulhu Mythos stories in favour of decidedly non-mythos tales (despite the obvious quality of A Death of Ages, it was not a mythos tale). Personally, I find the loosest definition for what counts as being a Cthulhu Mythos tale useful - i.e., any story of any sort that includes any characters, places, beings, etc., that can trace their connection to the interwoven works of the Lovecraft circle authors.
Also, the copyright issue is a bit stifling - it would perhaps be easier to host the next contest on a US server (perhaps Yog-Sothoth.com could help out with this?), so one could make use of their fair use laws (which allows for the non-profit creation of fanart, fiction and anything else of that sort). Being limited to only Lovecraft's and Robert E. Howard's creations, as well as Nick Mamata's Move Under Ground isn't too satisfying I think, and less knowledgable authors could be scared off from entering if they aren't sure of which items are able to be used and which aren't.

But enough about that - I enjoyed writing The Woodland (despite glaring errors being pointed out to me after I had sent it in...d'oh!), and playing The End of it all was pretty darn fun as well. (By the way, Mr. Handy, it was I that had commented on the tension problem in that medium. I also enjoyed the first two Fallout games alot, especially since you were able to talk yourself out of a lot of the main conflicts.)


A question though - should we write comments for the stories in this thread? Since the story threads are locked and don't identify the authors, it would seem a bit difficult to talk to them directly.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mr. Handy » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:23 pm

Thanks, Victimizer! The first two Fallout games are superb. I haven't played Fallout 3 yet (still waiting for the price to come down to something reasonable), but I know from what I've heard that it isn't true to the series and that it'll prove somewhat disappointing.

It might have been possible to create a better sense of rising tension in The End of It All, but that would have been at the expense of nonlinearity and would have meant less branching paths. It is a lot easier to do that with conventional fiction that is read straight through from beginning to end.

I'd also like to see more writing contests, and yes, it's important to specify beforehand what the rules are and to define what constitutes a Mythos story.

I just started reading the three runners-up, so I won't be able to comment on them just yet.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Victimizer » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:45 pm

No problem, Mr. Handy.

I agree with the linearity problems as opposed to cohesive tension in multi-branching stories that you mention. As for Fallout 3, from what my friends have mentioned about it, it does seem to be pretty fun in the way the stories and side-quests have been constructed, and I have read that there are a tiny few Cthulhoid references in it, so that might be something to look forward to.

I still need to read the runner-ups as well. Once I'Ve done so I'll comment on them too.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby sara » Sat Mar 21, 2009 2:13 pm

I would suppose interactive fiction is one of those formats that looks deceptively simple to create but in actual fact must be quite difficult to do well, especially in a short story. I think The End of It All was a great example of what you can achieve within a 5000 word limit, it's difficult enough keeping consistency within a single story thread let alone keeping track of multiple story lines! The copyright issue is an interesting one as well, does that put off people from entering? Personally, I think the best Lovecraftian fiction is that which uses elements of horror and the fantastic in order to create certain moods and states of wonderment and fear; any writer should be able to attempt this without having to utilise too much of other peoples work, surely? But I wonder if people are put off by entering due to copyright issues in relation to their own work?

I've finished reading the other stories and wanted to comment on those too........

The Woodland – There were lots of good, imaginative ideas in this one and overall I thought it was nicely written and put together. However, a story like this, where the lead character ends up driven insane by unfolding events, needs more tension written into it for it to really work. Also, I think the relationship between the narrator and the girl in the woods needs more attention to become convincing. There was a lot to do here within a 5000 word count and I enjoyed reading all the background mythology to the tale.

The Vacation of a Lifetime – Mmmmm, I’m a little ambivalent on this one (not necessarily a bad thing!) On the one hand this is well written and reads well with some nice touches and attention to detail. I was really enjoying the story and sharing in the narrator’s unease as he searches for his family in this strange seaside town. I guess I just didn’t like the ending; it’s a personal thing, nothing to do with the writing, I just thought it was too happy!

Mountain Hotaru – This was one of my favourites, if I had voted it would probably have been for this one! Parts of the narrative were pure dream and sought to engage the imagination of the reader as much as the story teller. Some of the grammar seemed incorrect and this made the story a little stilted in parts - also I’m not sure this jumps out at me as a Cthulhu Mythos tale, but, taken as a whole, I really loved this story and it's imagery.

Just one more thing........if the competition is run again there definitely needs to be a prize!!!!!
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mr. Handy » Sat Mar 21, 2009 4:36 pm

Thanks again, Sara! Maintining consistency is a big problem with interactive fiction, especially when referring to past events that may or may not have happened depending on which paths the reader took to get to the current point. Having paths that converge increases the complications greatly, and with a big enough story it's even possible that there will be so many potential paths that the author might not even realize that some combinations are possible. With a story as short as The End of It All, it was easier to manage (though the limited length did restrict what I could do in other ways). I did not even need to draw a flowchart, as it's easy enough to keep it straight in my head. For larger stories it's much more difficult, especially if they're less linear. I've written a few works of interactive fiction that are literally novel length, but it's been several years since I've had time to do that sort of thing.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Victimizer » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:43 am

@Sara (and others, since I give my thoughts about the copyright thing)

Well, first off, I agree with your assessment of the Woodland, so thank you for the kind words/time to express your thoughts on it (I am the author of the story). My main gripe with the story was also that I basically tried to fit a 6000 word story in a 5000 one - I ran out of space, and thus couldn't characterize the relationship any further. I'd say the lack of tension is somewhat related to this, since the latter third of the tale is pretty stuffed, but I'll review my use of tension in the future. So thanks.

As for the copyright thing - you said: "The copyright issue is an interesting one as well, does that put off people from entering? Personally, I think the best Lovecraftian fiction is that which uses elements of horror and the fantastic in order to create certain moods and states of wonderment and fear; any writer should be able to attempt this without having to utilise too much of other peoples work, surely? But I wonder if people are put off by entering due to copyright issues in relation to their own work?"

Sure, a story should stand on its own merits - however, a Cthulhu Mythos tale, by definition, uses props (beings/people, tomes, places, concepts, etc.) from another author's work - i.e., copyrighted material. Your use of Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath and the Necronomicon, for example. In my story, it was the use of Dean's Corner (with a hint of Dunwich). All these are uses of other people's intellectual property. In our cases, they are simply so old as to have fallen into the public domain.

Now this gives us a few ways of looking at this conundrum (I'll go into only two):
1.) Since the props don't matter, but the story does matter, it should be totally fine to be limited to those of Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
OR
2.) Given that the props don't matter, one could/should, out of either fairness/reverence to other material/avoidance of an oversaturation of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos elements, use the Cthulhu Mythos elements of other authors.

In particular, the overused elements that Lovecraft has created aren't something I like to use in my work very often. The Cthulhu Mythos is alot larger than merely Lovecraft's opus, and given the spirit of sharing that is inherent in Cthulhu Mythos fiction, it would be really nice to pick up where others have left off instead of standing on the shoulders of the most popular author of the genre.
I mean, I could understand it if there was an unavoidable copyright issue, but running the contest on an USA-server and not profitting off of the stories would already be sufficient to write about Games Workshop Space Marines fighting Scientologist employees of Walt Disney (three somewhat licentious corporations - that's why I mention them). I'm even uncertain if it won't work in the UK, but I understand that, since the issue came up fairly late, it was better to avoid it alltogether this time around. However, since we now know about it, it should be fine to try to avoid it alltogether and allowing people to use whatever they want.
Personally, I'd much rather write stories that include the Hounds of Tindalos, Zoth-Ommog, Chor-Tal or The Crimson Epoch. It weaves a tighter net between the other elements of the mythos that are out there, something I like to do - I also like nodding my head towards other authors, and allowing others to search for the elements that I've included (and nowadays, given Google, The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, as well as Jarocha-Ernst's Bibliography & Concordance and Barrass Bibliography & Checklist - these things make it easy to find what the reference is, and who wrote about in which story). Especialy since Lovecraft doesn't need any help anymore to earn a place in the spotlight of horror fiction history.

As for a prize...well, I don't agree, unless the prize is something relatively immaterial. Perhaps a printable certificate that one can hang on the wall, similar to what NaNoWriMo does (in NaNoWriMo you have to write a 50.000 word novel in the month of November. I'Ve won twice, and those two documents seemed sufficient...okay, I would'Ve participated even without a prize). Being the winner of a story contest is glory enough. After all, the internet will forevermore (or actually until it ceases to be) show a cluster of Cthulhu MYthos stories, pointing at a single one of those and saying, "This. This was the best of all of these." That should really be sufficient, and won't burden the organizers too much.
Of course, I'm not going to argue that a more substantial prize will not draw more authors, especially if combined with more advertisement. Yog-Sothoth.com really isn't enough (not all that many fiction writers hang out there, and those that do only check in once in a while), the google message groups (where published mythos authors tend to hang out as well), such as alt.horror.cthulhu, and online horror fiction magazines like Three-lobed Burning Eye, Arkham Tales and Lost Continent Library are all possibillities to enquire if an ad can be run or if the editor can mention the contest in the editorial.

That being said, I'm all for the contest being repeated, and I would even take part if it is run in the exact same way as it was run now, though there still needs to be a clarification what sort of fiction really is allowed, since a non-Cthulhu Mythos tale was allowed to enter the contest. Really, that should be avoided; either all denominations of horror/dark fiction are allowed and the contestants know this beforehand, or only Cthulhu Mythos tales (given that that was the title of the contest) should be allowed.
Okay, thinking on it some more, I might not enter if it's open to all dark fiction. Partially because I do like writing in that limited field, but mostly because I think that the influx of authors in such a case would include alot more good ones, and I don't feel that my own, still comparatively meagre, efforts are anywhere near the same league. Don't want to bother other people rading them either in such a case, I suppose.
But I might enter anyhow in such a hypothetical case. Time will tell (I only have Decembre to write the story since I will again participate in NanoWriMo this year).
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mi-Go Agent » Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:51 pm

Perhaps if the posts for each story were unlocked, we could post our comments there.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby carnage_lee » Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:07 am

I'm not going to unlock the individual stories, I think it's best that they remain as they are. By all means start a new topic to discuss each piece.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby sara » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:07 am

Those are some interesting points on the copyright stuff. I can understand why people would want to experiment with a wider variety of source materials for stories, and I guess that’s what fan fiction’s about.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Mr. Handy » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:44 am

That's true. I was originally going to have Carl Sanford and the Silver Twilight Lodge in The End of It All, but then I learned that they weren't from any of Lovecraft's works and I had to use something else instead.
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Re: We have a winner!

Postby Victimizer » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:08 pm

Right. Although I am uncertain if Cthulhu Mythos stories are Fan Fiction, per se. If Stephen King's Pet Cemetary is seen as Fan Fiction, then sure, I guess you can call them that.
It's somewhat hard to distinguish the two though, but I realize that's just my own quibble/opinion on that subject. Cthulhu Mythos fiction usually sports its own characters and events, whereas Fan Fiction/Pastiche usually takes characters from a previous work and continues whatever adventures it was that those characters were having. (Not really a good point though if you take Anton Zarnak and Inspector Legrasse stories into account).
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